Saturday, September 1, 2012

A new age for Greek guest workers? Perhaps in Greece?

During the 1960s/70s, Greek guest-workers worked the machinery & equipment in Germany and sent their savings back to Greece where they became a major factor in raising the country's standard of living. Among all the guest-workers of that generation, the Greek ones probably built up the best reputation for themselves: hard working, clean living, good attitude, good character, loyal, etc. It prompted the German singer Udo Jürgens to compose what later became known as "the hymn to the Greek guest-workers".

If things keep going the way they are going now, a new age of Greek guest-workers may have to return. Greeks may again have to move to Northern countries to work machinery & equipment there and send their savings back to Greece.

Or would they?

Why can't the machinery & equipment be moved to Greece so that Greeks can work it there? Couldn't/shouldn't the slogan be: "Don't move people to where the machinery & equiment is. Instead, move the machinery & equipment to where the people are!"?

It cannot be a vision for Greece, at least in my opinion it can't, that Greece becomes a prolonged work bench for multinationals. Multinationals tend to come and go. The quicker they come, the quicker they may leave again when conditions are more favorable elsewhere.

The vision has to be, at least in my opinion it has to be, that Greece builds up a middle-market manufacturing base on a sustainable basis. That is, whatever is produced is primarily needed in Greece. And if it is produced for export, it will not be exported to the headquarters of multinationals but to end-customers, instead.

That would be a "new age for Greek guest-workers" or rather: a "new age for Greek workers" working in their home country.

Instead of tendering prizes for the best way of Greece's leaving the Eurozone, someone ought to start thinking about tendering a prize, perhaps even a Nobel Prize, for the best way of Greece's building up a middle-market manufacturing base. A middle-market manufacturing base which creates new jobs, which jobs allow their holders to support a decent standard of living and to pay a fair amount of income taxes. Which allows the manufacturers to pay a fair amount of corporate taxes. And which allows their owners to collect a lot of dividends on which they pay dividend taxes.

Who will take the initiative for tendering such a prize?


  1. Klaus an irrelevant question.How many teachers working in public schools in Austria? How many hours/week, for how many months/year? Also what is the average salary for a newly appointed and for someone with 30-35 years of experience?

    1. Am not sure I understand relevance of question but my understanding is that the starting level of a teacher with university education is EUR 2.420 with 24 weekly hours and it would be close to EUR 5.000 at age 65. If you have more energy and desire than I do, you could study the below link for all Austrian public salaries...

  2. You didn't mention the total number. In Gr there are 196.000 plus 10.000 in other public offices. Less than yours?
    Average salary is around 900€. Average hours ± 20/week. Even a newly appointed with MBA and PHD is earning less 1000€!
    I am trying to explain the phrase "for the best way of Greece's building up a middle-market manufacturing base".
    The way to achieve what y said is to change a few in the quality of education during especially the first years of school but also to connect the education with market changes and needs. We have many highly expertise doctors, teachers; mechanical engineers etc but in some cases too many!
    PS1: The quality of education is No1 for our future and MAINLY the R&D which is also scarce (0.6%!!! of GDP).
    Who will come even to manufacture? Imagine if we have had an automobile industry, what will be the incentives.
    PS2: In many university schools the quality of expertise and education plus teachers ampleness is outstanding. But this is a result of personal interest of an individual teacher not a coordinate and stable policy.
    Troika didn't have any attention to this. Only cuts.

    1. I looked up Wikipedia. Back in 2008, there were about 120.000 teachers in Austria with a population of about 8 million. Trend declining.

      I am no expert but I believe that there have been substantial changes in the last 2 decades. All teachers ussed to be "pragmatized" (i. e. total job security) but poorly paid. Now, more and more are under contracts but paid better. Frankly, I was quite surprised when I saw their salary scales today! I am not sure that every MBA who starts a job with a bank gets EUR 2.420 per month as a starting salary. I hope I have given you the right figures because they sound very high.

      From what I know, the young generation of Greeks is highly educated (more universities than in Austria), perhaps educated for the wrong thing but nevertheless. I am always told that this is because parents were led to believe that if their children went to university, they would get a good job in the public sector and live happily ever thereafter.

      Anyway, no debate with you about the importance of education, particularly if it is connected with market changes and needs!

      Again, I am no enthusiast about attracting investments from large multinationals like car manufacturers. Large multinationals rarely show (or rather: they cannot show) loyalty to countries and/or locations.

      However, if you want to know how to get car manufacturers to Greece, look at Slovakia. They had no car manufacturers 20 years ago and now, I believe, that is their largest industry. Except, I think they "bought" those investors with low wages and tax breaks. We'll see if they stay long-term.

      I can't emphasize enough the middle-market type of investor. Those are companies which are much more prone to show a long-term orientation and commitment. And, in my opinion, Greece needs a lot of smaller companies instead of a few large ones.

  3. Klaus, multinationals like car manufacturers might not be the best, as you say, especially if imposed very specific and strict rules, demand special incentives, part time employment and limited salaries.
    But there is great interest from Greeks about the cars, the technology and expertise they developed and know-how. Its something which is pleasant for many.
    Probably is not a long term orientation investment with commitment but might seen as a diversification policy and learning "tool" for us.
    Smaller companies is really the issue but with competitive advantages and "real case studies-examples" -i may add- might from small companies develop, to growth stories.
    The learning experience is important i think.
    Finally in the case of Sweden during 1994 when the country deal with significant issues when made reforms the one never change even if face huge reactions was their perception about the role of school and R&D. Their great positioning in IT industry and not only as a result of their antilipsis for school and R&D helped them too much.

  4. Finally the more universities in Greece than in Austria do not imply better education for Greece. On the contrary!
    If you have been in places in northern or southern Greece you might observe many universities but with what practical object and connection to employment needs?
    If you ask you might evaluate.
    Many of these departments served local needs not scientific perspectives.
    Nnowdays many scheduled to close!

    1. Look at the linked list of universities, etc., in Greece. That is quite a list! What is particularly impressive is that there are so many Technological Educational Institutes. I am afraid a comparison with Austria might not be all that favorable for Austria!

    2. Klaus the point is the quality of studies. We might have 20 more but what kind of students do they produce some universities and technological institutions scattered across Greece?
      Do the graduate students find easily a job in Gr or in other eu country?
      Many builded because the X minister of X party was elected in a specific area plus to satisfy the commercial businesses of his place, real estate individuals and local companies. To increase specifically the consumption! as hundreds-thousands students with families and friends rent houses and become parts of local communities.
      A title does not imply high quality of education.
      Many departments in Athens, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (only in Thessaloniki) are renowned. Also university of Patras, Technical University of Crete, Democritus University of Thrace, Ioannina -Alexandroupolis (a few departments) are schools with high level of studies, practical expertise and research.
      But most of the others the expertise offered can not compared with the level those mentioned.

  5. Where will the money to buy the equipment come from, modern manufacturing doesn't come without significant Capex, who in Greece would be willing to finance the purchase of the machinery to make the mnufactures. If you want to make clothes you have to buy sewing machines - Juki from Japan are best value for money.

    Slovakia doesn't own its Skoda factories Volkwagen owns them, I would imagine a high proportion of Skoda cars are exported out of Slovakia, and not just within the EU. In Asia they cost a bit more and they're a bit better equipped than the VW equivalent, they are nice cars & highly regarded by boy racers. Slovakia also make a lot of components that get shipped to Wolfsburg and shipped as Made in Germany goods.

    A new MBA grad who goes to work for a bank will have the opportunity to earn much greater lifetime earnings than a teacher ever will. Few, if any, teachers will become multi-millionaires but some bankers certainly will. Does anyone imagine that the lifetime earnings of a 1,000 young bankers will not be significantly greater than that of a 1,000 young teachers - in most countries at least, in Finland I heard that most teachers have a PhD.

    Greece has 2 or 3 universities in the Shanghai top 500, from memory they're rankings all start with a 4, hardly renowned outside of Greece. How many foreign students go to Greek Universities, from countries other than the immediate neighbours - how many are studying science or engineering.

    For manufacturing you need production engineers, and skilled workers - how many of the workers in a Linz Mittelstand foundry would have a university degree, 15%, but 60% will have done technical training within a good apprenticeship scheme.

    Greece will never be a centre for car manufacture, its too small, and its not 'hooked' into the industry - which by the way is shrinking fast in Europe. Greece needs to manufacture high quality products that other people want, like Germany does Example, if Greece made high quality crystal glassware with quintessential Greek design - they could, with the right marketing plan, sell like hot cakes in Asia - I don't mean kitsch I mean $300 for one wine glass - the Czechs are doing it why not Greece - because there is no culture of high quality manufacturing.

    What happened to the boat building skills, Greece should be building boats - I don't mean Panex bulk carriers, there;s plenty enough of them. I mean yachts, fishing boats, ferries etc. A few years ago Australia sold a couple of sea going ferries to one of the EU Med states - look at a map of Australia what is it - one very very big island - biggest in the world - how many sea going ferries does it have - precisely 1. It's also sold the same ferries to the US military for amphibious warfare tasks.

    Rather than buying submarines it cant even operate and tanks with no ammo Greece should be making small warships like the Scandinavians make, but ones suited to warmer climates - the Scandinavian ones aren't too flash in tropical waters unless you like your crew baked.


    1. I have used the term "manufacturing" for lack of a better alternative. Of course I mean every activity which employs people in a value-generating way in Greece. To be cynical: I am not sure that it is all so bad when thousands of Greek shops which sell textiles imported from China go out of business. Yes, a lot of jobs are killed upfront but, on the other hand, negative value creation is reduced. The trick is to find new employment for those people in positive value creation jobs. The McKinsey report was full of ideas of what promising new business areas might be for Greece.

      Where will the money for new investments come from? Well, from offshore in my vision. Either as direct investment by foreign companies or as retransfers on the part of Greeks of funds which they had sent offshore before (repatriation of capital flight). Believe me, I have witnessed more than once how quickly capital is prepared to flow once its owners develop a positive view of the future.

      There must never be "forced investments". By that, I mean that politicians here and there get together to decide which projects will be invested in and how much of tax payers' money will be used for it. The money must flow voluntarily. If you can't get it to flow voluntarily, then you might as well close shop.

      Personally, and despite the positive results for CZ and Slovakia so far, I am no big friend of car manufactures, or of large multinationals in general. It has worked well for CZ and, particularly, for Slovakia so far but it is also an enormous dependence. Obviously, if Ford came along and said that they would want to invest that billion in Greece instead of China, I wouldn't send them away if I were Greek. But one would have to make very sure that one doesn't become subject to blackmail later on.

      I simply refuse to accept the notion that Greece has nothing interesting for foreign investors. Greece, of course, does have competitive advantages just like every country has its own. Shipping and tourism are the obvious ones but there are certainly many others.

      I fail to understand why Greeks often make it a national sport to prove that there is nothing they can do on their own. I am not sure that Japan ever had as many advantages in terms of raw materials, scenery, location, etc. as Greece does.

      Of course, if one is out to fail intentionally to prove that others (foreigners) wanted them to fail and that those others can subsequently be called responsible for failure, well, if that's the plan, I must admit that Greeks are sometimes implementing it quite well...

  6. @ Canutely King

    Many of your remarks are generalizations which show off poor knowledge of what saying.
    It’s totally irrelevant whether many bankers are going to be millionaires or not and teachers never would be. If your thoughts are to control effectively how the banking system performs around the world and how should regulated it’s a different story. For sure we would have a better society if teachers earning most money from bankers this is a truth.
    But the point about the educational need is to implement some simple rules that education-centered countries follow - and have good results.
    But y tend to present a reality which is much worse than its real dimension.
    For the remark especially that Gr has 2-3 universities in the Shanghai top 500 this is the generalization which alternating the truth. The point is not only to be a number in a list but the evaluation of the potential which is not mentioned.
    The results in mathematics-physics-chemistry tests give very different sense even beenin difficult situation.
    Also the comment “how many foreign students go to Greek Universities, from countries other than the immediate neighbours - how many are studying science or engineering” certifying the size of your ignorance.

  7. I wonder how much of the money sent out took its owners with it. Greeks are said have helped keep London property prices up, particularly at the top end. I read that's also true in Monaco and Switzerland. Assuming the wealth was accumulated over time, and it was obtained legally, then if its owners didn't invest it in wealth/job producing Greek enterprises during the "good times", why would they invest it in such during "bad times"?

    I agree governments shouldn't pick winners, but they do have to make choices on infrastructure investment.

    Suppose entrepreneur A says he'd like to establish a premium quality shoe factory in the Peloponnese because it has good leather. He would employ 2000, but he needs better transport - roads, rail and an air cargo terminal. Now entrepreneur B says she'd like to establish a solar cell plant near Thessaloniki because of the 'groundbreaking' research being done at the university. She would employ 2000 people, but she needs a very reliable electricity supply and lots of gas for making the special glass.

    The government doesn't the have money or borrowing capacity to do both, so which does it choose. The shoes, which have less risk and modest potential tax returns; or solar cells that could generate lots of tax revenue, assuming the technology works and it's scalable to high volume production. Another major consideration - would improved transport in the Peloponnese attract more additional private investment than improved energy infrastructure in Thesally

    Im sure Goldman's have a battalion of laptop armed financial engineers eager to help. But whatever the Govt does it will be cast as a political decision with one winner and one loser. Sadly the Greek government would probably build a light rail system on Kefallonia for one of its mates.

    Whilst a few Greeks own many ships, how many Greeks work on those ships?. How much of the shipping support services industry (insurance, contract management, cargo tracing etc) is located in Greece? How much tax does the Greek shipping industry pay? I suspect many people see the Greek cruise ships and assume these are typical of the Greek shipping industry. However, they only make up a small fraction of the Greek owned merchant fleet. The vast majority of Greek owned ships are oil tankers and bulk carriers, they are registered in "Flag of Convenience" countries, they are crewed by Filipino's, Indonesians etc, most of them have never had a Greek foot on the gangway, let alone on the deck.

    CK (cont ...)

  8. (... cont) Japan may not have raw materials, but it has beautiful scenery, and it has a great location, it's proximity to Hawaii & California and their large Japanese communities provides ready access to the US market.

    Many in the West, especially in Europe, seem to think that Japan's industries grew out of thin air after WW2, but Japan has a long established industrial base. Mitsui was founded in mid 17th century, Toyota and Toshiba are spin offs from Mitsui. The Sumitomo Bank can trace its founding to the 17th century, when it was a copper smelter, it became a Bank in the mid 19th century, I seem to recall it was the worlds biggest in the 1990's.


    You wrote "I'm not sure that it is all so bad when thousands of Greek shops which sell textiles imported from China go out of business".

    Are those shops owned and operated by Greeks, or are they, as many are in Spain, owned and operated by 'Chinese'. The Chinese community in Spain has an unemployment rate of less than 5%, they are almost the only people buying houses, starting new businesses and resurrecting old ones. They don't borrow from banks, they borrow from their Community Co-ops. I'm not talking about COSCO's and Foxconn's, I'm talking about individual & family owned businesses, some of the 'Chinese' are 2nd and 3rd generation Spaniards. Inevitably their success is resented in Spain as it is in many countries, but...

    I've met very few Asian migrants in settler countries like the US, Aus & NZ, who didn't work harder than the locals. Which brings us back to the Greek guest workers in Germany in the 60's & 70's - model guest workers.

    So rather than hoping for the return of expats and their money, maybe it would be better to have a program of attracting wealthy Asian people to bring their money to Greece - with proviso's that they invest in businesses that employ Greek citizens.

    I know there are more than a few Chinese millionaires who are 'fed up' with China. You've referred to Greece needing to get Fresh Money from the Troika, maybe it needs some Fresh People who bring their own money, rather than remaining stuck on the borrow-go-round.


    (cont ...)

  9. (...) A thought has been on my mind for a few weeks.

    Is it time to rewrite the Greek constitution to give more power to the regions, and take away power/influence from the centre. Intuitively this may sound silly, especially when one looks at EU countries like Spain, UK and Belgium which are always on the verge of dissolving. However the regions in those countries are based on a recent history (within the past 1,000 years) of conquest by the centre, and there are ancient differences in culture and language.

    But is that true of Greece, my impression is that its not. If nothing else the Greeks are united by the shadow of losing their Byzantine Empire and then being ruled by the Ottoman Turks for hundred of years.

    A more federal system should provide a better vehicle to try different ideas, business affairs & land management could be moved, as could many taxes, like VAT, income and corporate tax, and health and education. It would allow regions to compete for investment by streamlining their administrations, which may be an alternative to centrally mandated SEZ's. I'd feel more comfortable with SEZ's selected and administered by regional governments, I just don't trust modern central governments, it seems easier to keep watch on regional administrations. And if one of them "goes mad" then the impact should be less.

    It also brings government closer to the people, as well linking to your thought that "many Greeks have become helpless because of the mad decisions taken by the Greek government over the past 30 years". So why not relieve the Greek government of it ability to make mad decisions, hopefully NATO & the EU would stop them making mad decisions on foreign affairs & defence

    Voting should be constituency based (ie no party lists) using exhausted AV, if you vote you get €10, if you don't you pay €20. Hopefully this would mean you'd get high voter turn out, and the most preferred (aka as the least worst) candidates would elected. Regional govts would run for a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 39.

    On Slovakia and vehicle manufacturer - Skoda was already there when the Wall came down, at one time Skoda made quite good cars. I deliberated between Skoda & Saab when I was buying my first new car in the late 60's. I'm glad VW bought Skoda and kept the brand going, I hope it lasts. Even if it doesn't Slovakia & Czeska will still have their manufacturing skills.